Switching to WordPress

As will shortly become apparent as this blog goes live (I am currently editing posts on my test system, but intend to include the posts I am making whilst I am setting things up), I have switched my personal web site from Drupal to WordPress.  I thought I would explain why.

Over the years I have tried a number of different platforms for my web site.  My last but one implementation was WordPress, but I decided on my previous implementation to use Drupal.  My decision then was based on the fact that I had decided that wanted something more complex than a simple blog and Drupal looked to allow that possibility.  So I did set about building the site and managed to achieve a passable result.  However I didn’t find I was updating the site all that much with new ideas.

Over the past year or so, I have been setting up my new business (Hartley Consultants) and as part of that had been considering the relationship between its web site and this one. I came to the conclusion that I needed this one to be a much more active expression of my personal opinion and that the Hartley Consultants web site would just be a show case for the basic offerings.  I make that happen, I needed to rework this site so that its primary purpose was as a blog, with the other elements taking a slightly less important role.  They would still be there, but perhaps behind the scenes.

The obvious choice would be to continue to use Drupal, but I had always had a nagging doubt about its use in what is, after all, a rather simplistic environment.  The complexity to create bespoke themes, the maze of choice when choosing modules to do the basic input of text which might have pictures embedded with in it all conspired to make me worry that it was not the right choice.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am convinced that Drupal is great for web sites where complex but formally structured pages of different types are part of the requirement, or where control over access to parts of the site stronger than is required for a personal site.  But my experience with trying to use it for something simple is that it is easy to get locked in to the complexity.  But if I was not going to use Drupal, what alternatives might there be.

This might be complete rubbish, but the vibes I get around the place is that there are three front runners when considering a CMS (Content Management System).  Drupal is the premier system for complex requirements , Joomla is aimed at those medium sized implementations where perhaps a few people are going to produce input (for example small clubs or very small businesses) and WordPress is aimed at the individual trying to produce a blog.

I knew what Drupal was like, and I had recollections of what WordPress was like but I had no idea what Joomla could do.  I decided I would try and  set up a test system for Joomla and see how it worked and whether I could easily make use of it.  I  started with downloading the latest stable version of Joomla and proceeded to set up a test system.  I also had to experiment with which Plugins I might need and how to make a bespoke template for the site.  I created a basic web site and got it working.  It might be because Joomla and only just reached version 1.6, but I quickly ran into trouble.  I could find very little documentation for it and only a small selection of plugins that would work with the latest release.  With the set-up I had been able to build it quickly became obvious to me that I would have to invest quite a bit more time and effort in understanding its structure and figuring out how to make it work to even achieve something simple.  I gave up and decided to explore WordPress again.

Almost as soon as I set up a test system, I remembered some of the benefits from my last attempt at using it.  Simple to use and the even the default theme could give me much of what I wanted.  However I realised it wasn’t the complete answer and that I would have to

  • install plugins to get extra support
  • learn to write my own theme

What quickly came apparent to me when comparing against my Joomla experience was

  • much less emphasis on commercial support
  • extremely high quality centralised documentation on how to create and modify themes
  • a good availability of plugins to do the basic things I wanted to do.

I therefore decided it was appropriate for me to move forward with a full blown test.

The test has been extremely successful.  I found a great explanation of how to port over all by Drupal entries into blog entries in WordPress, so I have been able to pull in these (although they do need quite a bit or re-organisation as Drupal had made “nodes” for all the content, including some individual photographs which were not appropriate to be left as full blog posts).

I am writing this blog entry as I have the basic theme in place and I start to consider some of the more complex aspects of this thing.  I believe that when I put this site live I will be able to carry over this database to the live site and these entries will then be available to the public at large.

I will follow up with some other posts related to the porting that might be of interest

Author: Alan

I am Alan Chandler.

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